Chapter 8: A Corpse Attacks the Old Temple
Translator: Novel Saga Editor: - -
*Half a year later. On a remote, deserted mountain road in the suburb of Feng City.*
It was raining heavily, with the raindrops thudding hard against the ground. Loud crashes of dull thunder could be heard in the distance from time to time. Bolts of lightning flashed vividly, lighting up the sky in a stark white flash.
A man was seen running wildly like a leopard; each leap that he took must have been at least five times that of an ordinary person. It only took him a moment to cross a small hill, and then he was directly on his way to the thick woods nearby.
Shortly afterwards, he disappeared into the woods and a shadow flashed about.
An intense rumbling noise was heard. Boom! More than a dozen large trees slowly fell to the ground. A clean cut had slashed through their trunks. Just then a sudden lightning bolt flashed, revealing the man in the light. He wore a straw hat, and a straw raincoat.
As the darkness returned, the man disappeared again.
*Two hours later.*
The gate to a broken and worn down temple on the hill was thrown open, leaving a trail of heavy footsteps. They belonged to a man carrying a huge object on his shoulder. As he pushed the door open, heavy raindrops and gusts of wind rushed inside the temple.
Two travellers were seen sitting around a bonfire in the centre of the hall. On hearing the disturbing noise, they turned around with astonishment to face the man.
"Why are you visiting the temple? And is that my firewood?" the man in the straw hat questioned unhurriedly. The heavy object on his shoulder fell to the ground as he shook the raindrops from his raincoat.
The two travellers consisted of a man and a girl.
The man, apparently in his forties, looked poised but it was clear that he had been worn-out from his journey. The latter was a teenage girl, 14 or 15 year old, with fair skin. She was beautiful by all standards, and had a fairly noticeable blue birthmark - a blemish on her otherwise perfect face.
"Ah, that's your firewood! I'm sorry, I mistook this temple to be uninhabited. The firewood was lying around, and I just used it to make a fire. My daughter and I were completely soaked in the rain. But don't worry young boy, I will definitely compensate you for the firewood and shelter," the middle-aged man stood up hurriedly to offer his apology, but his eyes were fearfully focussed on the huge object on the ground.
On the ground lay the corpse of a brown boar, weighing at least five hundred kilograms. The animal had died quite recently, as could be concluded from the stark white colour of its eyes, the still bleeding mouth, and its two huge broken fangs.
"The wood was chopped so it could be used. So use it," the figure in the straw hat walked up to the travellers.
The light of the bonfire revealed a boy with thick brows and huge eyes, carrying a long blade. It was none other than Shi Mu.
"Then, I must thank you for your hospitality. Please call for me if you are in need of anything. I am surnamed Zhong," the middle aged man could not help but answer in haste at the boy's offer. He was smiling profusely, and did not relax until he was assured that he had repeatedly expressed his gratefulness. He then went back to the bonfire and began comforting the girl.
The girl in the blue dress secretly stole a glance at Shi Mu, with a tender look on her face.
By then Shi Mu had put away the saber, as well as his raincoat. An unexpected sight lay beneath his clothes, for he wore a thick, black iron armour. The armour covered his torso entirely, leaving only his neck and arms exposed.
"Is that the famous black armour?" the middle-aged man asked, stunned at the sight.
"You know about this armour?" It was Shi Mu's turn to be surprised.
"Haha, I once saw a blacksmith forge this armour with my own eyes, to tell you the truth. That's why it made a deep impression on me. How much does your amour weigh? The blacksmith had told me that this armour was not used for defence in fights because of its brittleness. The armour is used simply to help warriors in training their bodies," the man answered, smiling.
"The one I'm wearing at the moment does not weigh a lot, or it would have been difficult for me to move," Shi Mu waved the question off, grasping one side of the armour with some strength.
The black armour cracked into two pieces, and Shi Mu threw it onto the ground with ease. The two pieces fell to the ground with a thud, causing the ground to tremble. The middle-aged man found himself blinking his eyes twice.
Not a lot? That must be a joke, for the weight had to be remarkable! The armour must have weighed at least two or three hundred kilograms. It would require a huge monster to support the armour only through brute strength. This boy had to be rather strong for his age, and his level in Body Tempering is sure to be quite high.
Shi Mu's body began to relax as he undid the black armour's straps. Once he was done, he cut the two front legs of the boar in the blink of an eye. The legs were illuminated by a golden light before they were skinned quickly and completely. Then the boy took out a small bottle from his clothes. He sprinkled some white powder from the bottle on to the boar's legs, and then carried them to the bonfire.
A strong and delicious smell began to fill the whole temple after some time. The two travellers who sat around the bonfire had been eating their prepared dried food, but found themselves drawn to the strong smell of the sizzling boar legs. The girl could not help but drool, but at once found it ungraceful. She lowered her head, hiding the blush on her face.
Shi Mu noticed this and, taking her by surprise, passed her the half done leg with a quiet smile.
"That's too much! We've already used your firewood, we can't possibly take your meat as well..." said the middle aged man, overjoyed. His words were refusing the offer, but his hands willingly and shamelessly accepted it.
"Father..." the girl beside him said, in a shameful tone.
"There is plenty of meat for everyone, don't you see? This young boy is obviously a strong warrior, and such a small offer wouldn't bother him," the man answered his daughter, grinning.
"Alright then, but thank you, young master," the girl blushed in meek acceptance at her father's impoliteness, thanking Shi Mu.
"You're welcome. It's not a problem. In any case, this boar is too big for me to eat alone," Shi Mu turned to the girl and answered with a smile. He had already skinned another leg of the boar by then.
"By the way, young boy, Feng City is not too far from here, right? We have come from Ying City to stay with our relatives living in Feng City. We lost our way in the mountains when the rain started pouring, and then it got dark," said the middle aged man, inquiring about the way. He was smiling brightly, trying to rip a piece of meat for his daughter.
"I see. I was wondering what brought the two of you to this deserted temple at such a late hour. Uncle Zhong, don't worry, Feng City is not very far from here. You'll see the west gate of the city if you walk along the road that goes straight from the temple for about two and a half kilometres," Shi Mu answered unthinkingly, finally understanding the reason for their presence in the temple.
"That's great! Xiu, did you hear that, my child? We can reach Feng City by tomorrow itself, and then soon you'll be married into the Wu family," said the middle aged man, overjoyed.
"Father, stop it! Can't you see our present condition? I look terrible right now, so there is a high chance that they might cancel the engagement," said the girl, blushing with shame at her father's mention of her engagement.
"Terrible? That's nonsense! My daughter is the most intelligent and beautiful girl in the whole world! Humph, it is because of the Wus that we are now in such a state. Don't worry my Xiu, I'll talk to the Wus about your engagement," The middle-aged man said, clearly disapproving of his daughter's self-abasement.
A bell went off in Shi Mu's head!
The Wu family? Could they be talking about the powerful Wu clan, second only to the Jin? But the stature of the father and daughter did not indicate that they could be strong enough to be warriors.
As the man was talking to his daughter, and Shi Mu was cooking next to them, a shrill howl was heard in the distance; and a short while later, another loud sound was heard, not too far from the temple. Within a moment, a large figure approached the temple, having covered a great distance.
"What is that? Are there monsters in these mountains?" the man asked, scared out of his wits. He stood up and fumbled for a dagger in his clothes. He managed to take out the sharp weapon which shone in the cold. He stood in front of his daughter to protect her, though he was terribly scared himself. His legs were trembling, making it evident that he would not last even a minute in a fight.
"It is not a monster, or at least not a monster from this mountain. I've never heard a howl like this one before," Shi Mu said, reaching swiftly for the saber lying beside the bonfire. His eyes shone as he glared at the temple gate, which seemed to be going dark, threateningly. Shi Mu expectantly waited for the unknown, for he had trained himself by hunting wild animals in the mountain for half a year. He had not done so for entertainment, but to acquire the experience of actual combat. Moreover, he had continued to train in Body Tempering.
Shi Mu had managed to kill at least one hundred wild wolves and boars in the mountains, although it was a rather tame place when one considered the animals living in it. Having killed such a large number of animals, he was way more experienced than his company, who shied away from blood.
Though he wasn't a warrior, the middle-aged man was quite observant. Shi Mu's composure helped in calming him down a bit.
Boom! The already half broken gate was burst open from the outside. A human figure rushed into the hall, accompanied by a shower of splinters. His skin was black from head to toe.
"This is... a zombie! A real zombie! Good heavens! Where has this thing come from? What are the armies in Feng City doing? We are dead!" the man said as he recognised the monster, already half dead with fright.
Shi Mu's blood froze when he saw the figure.
The monster was at least three meters tall; its face badly mutilated, with two big bloody holes carved where the eyes should have been. The entire body of the monster was covered with a thick layer of black hair. A nauseating smell emerged from the drops of green fluid that were dripping from its body intermittently.